An isolated community in the remote northwest region of Tanzania has opened its first-ever secondary school thanks to a partnership between Barrick Gold, local government and community leaders.
The Lusahunga Ward’s new high school, located on the lone highway running west to the Rwandan border, was largely supported by Barrick Gold’s nearby Tulawaka mine.
The company provided the building materials and engineering support, while community members supplied the labor.
The new Nyantakara high school is now serving students who previously had few opportunities to continue their studies beyond primary school. Up until recently, only affluent families could afford to send their children away to study in larger urban centers.
“The Nyantakara school opens up a world of possibilities for the children of Lusahunga Ward,” says Scott Atkinson, general manager of the Tulawaka mine. “For a community that had so few educational opportunities in the past, a secondary school is a major stepping stone to improving the quality of life for everyone. Barrick Gold is proud to be a part of this achievement.”
The school, situated on a sprawling property surrounded by green forests, was officially inaugurated by Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete during a visit to the region in mid-2008. It is equipped with eight classrooms, dormitories, a dining hall, and accommodation for teachers, with plans to expand the facilities over the coming year.
Although the government has decreed that every ward in Tanzania must have a secondary school, student fees oft en make it impossible for children from poor families to attend class.
To address this issue, the Tulawaka mine created a scholarship program for children from impoverished families in the Lusahunga Ward, enabling them to attend high school. In the past two years, 70 students identified by village leaders have received this financial aid.
When the mine convened a community council in 2005 to identify development priorities, local leaders made education their second highest priority, right after access to clean water.
With Barrick Gold’s help, the Mavota primary school was refurbished and expanded first, adding new classrooms and more housing for teachers. The mine also created an incentive program, rewarding the top students in each class with new bicycles that make it easier to get to and from school.
“Often these kids have to walk many kilometers to school, so having a bike is a huge incentive to attend class,” says Atkinson “The reality is that bicycles are the primary source of transportation for most families.”
The incentive program produced immediate results. In 2006, all of the students passed their final examinations. Now, those graduating from primary school have somewhere to go. The new Nyantakara secondary school already has 245 students enrolled. That number is expected to grow to 720, as more students enter the system.
Open pit mining operations have now ended at Tulawaka, with underground mining expected to continue for two to three years. The mine is already implementing its closure plan, part of which will lay the groundwork for further sustainable development in the local community. Investments in education are just one part of that commitment.